Esther before Ahasuerus

Artist: Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian, born Rome 1593–died Naples 1654 or later)

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 82 x 107 3/4in. (208.3 x 273.7cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Gift of Elinor Dorrance Ingersoll, 1969

Accession Number: 69.281


The most famous woman painter of the seventeenth century, Artemisia worked in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Naples. This painting, among her most ambitious, recounts the story of the Jewish heroine Esther, who appeared before King Ahasuerus to plead for her people. She, thus, broke court etiquette and risked death. She fainted in the king’s presence, but her request found favor. The story is conceived not as a historical recreation but as a contemporary event. Initially Artemisia included the detail of a black boy restraining a dog—still partly visible beneath the marble pavement, to the left of Ahasuerus’s knee.